The LADO Group - Latino Muslims

In the name of Allah SWT

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The Latino Muslim Voice

The October-December 2002 newsletter features:

1. Quotes of the Month
2. "Lessons from a Dawah Barbeque" By Isa Lima
3. "FAQs About Latino Muslims" By Juan Galvan
4. "The Latino Muslim Experience" By Edmund A. Arroyo
5. "A Letter to my Family" By Michelle Al-Nasr
6. "Review of 3 Spanish Qurans" By Alejandro Hamed
7. "From the Teacher's Desk" By Tweaka Temple Dilek
8. "The NOI is not al-Qaeda..." By Juan Alvarado
9. "Reflections on my Shahada" By Juan Galvan
10. "Islamic Contributions to Medicine" By Haneme Idrizi, MD
11. "Have Courage - Deliver the Message!" By Brenda Ortiz
12. "When Muslims Must Handle Tragedies" By Edmund A. Arroyo
13. "Ramadan in Mexico" By Mudar Abdulghani
14. "One Year Later: Petition Against Christina Episode
15. "The Mexican Wife"

Quotes of the Month

"He is God; there is no god but He, He is the Knower of the unseen and the visible; He is the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate. He is God, there is no God but He. He is the King, the All-Holy, the All-Peace, the Guardian of Faith, the All-Preserver, the All-Mighty, the All-Compeller, the All-Sublime. Glory be to God, above that they associate! He is God the Creator, the Maker, the Shaper. To Him belong the Names Most Beautiful. All that is in the heavens and the earth magnifies Him; He is the All-Mighty, the All-Wise." - Qur'an 59:22-24.

"Show gratitude to Me and to thy parents: to Me is (thy final) Goal." - Qur'an 31:14.

A companion of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) described him by saying, "Anyone who saw him suddenly stood in awe of him, and anyone who made his acquaintance loved him. Those who described him said they had never seen anyone like him before or since." - Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 1524.

The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said to a companion, "You are not better than people (of other races) unless you excel them in piety." - Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 1361.

"No matter how far you've gone down the wrong road, turn back." - Turkish proverb.

Lessons from a Dawah Barbeque

By Isa Lima

I remember the last time I tried to participate in dawah work with Hispanics. We sort of went out into Culmore, the Spanish neighborhood close to the Darul Hijrah mosque in Virginia. We set up a barbeque and a table full of pamphlets. One bro was grilling burgers; another was yelling "FREE FOOD!" I was trying to give an overview of Islam to those who were coming, and other brothers were giving pamphlets out. If people showed a lot of interest and wanted to know even more than what the pamphlets said, we'd give them a Spanish translation of the Qur'an.

We were at some soccer fields. We gave out pamphlets along with food...we went on and on...all day. Some things I learned from that experience are the following:

1. Don't go out to give dawah with 12 ambitious well-intended, English-speaking brothers and one Hispanic brother. The Hispanic bro will collapse.
2. Learn Central American slang to communicate with Central Americans. It's a completely different language I tell you.
3. Be consistent. Come back to the neighborhood every weekend or whenever you can.
4. Don't show up wearing thobes. Otherwise, you will have to explain to Hispanics why such and such brothers are wearing "skirts," which aren't really "skirts."
5. Realize that you will be talking to drunkards, drug addicts, and people from the slap-a-ho tribe, and men lacking common knowledge of hygiene.
6. Don't bring too many sisters with you because you'll have to defend them from alcoholics. I'm serious.
7. Bring a truckload of Spanish translations of the Qur'an and pamphlets on Islam.
8. Bring big brothers in case you have to rumble with La Mara Sapatrucha or whatever the hell it's called. Latin Kings..la misma vaina.
9. Make sure the masjid has your name and number in case people come in asking for a Muslim to speak about Islam in Spanish. This goes the same for Portuguese speakers.
10. If any people accept Islam that don't speak English very well, try to set up a Spanish speaking Qur'an class.

FAQs About Latino Muslims

By Juan Galvan

Assalaam alaiykum,
This article will provide responses to a number of frequently asked questions about Latino Muslims. Most questions are about Latino Muslims, in general. Some questions are about Muslims and Islam. Some questions are about myself. Some questions ask for my opinion. I should warn you that my personal opinions, thoughts, and ideas should not be misunderstood as facts. I do not have a pipeline into the brain of every Latino Muslim. Muslims may disagree on various issues, and I do not want to isolate any segment of the Muslim population. Some things are set in stone, like the Five Pillars, and some things are debatable. Please do not quote me out of context.

I apologize if I offend anyone. If I am correct, then only God is to be thanked. If I am incorrect, I am responsible. Let me know if you think I forgot to mention anything important. Your suggestions, questions, and feedback are always welcomed. Jazak Allah khairun.

- Will you tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Juan Galvan. I am 28 years old. I graduated in 2001 from the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor's degree in Management Information Systems. I am the LADO-TX President. You can probably find any questions you have about the Latino American Dawah Organization (LADO) at www.LatinoDawah.org. I was born and raised in Texas. My conversion story can be found online. I am coauthoring a book about Latino Muslims with Samantha Sanchez. I am not a religious scholar. I am only a seeker of knowledge.

- Who are Latino Muslims?
Latino Muslims are individuals of Latino descent who belong to the Islamic faith. Any discussion about Latino Muslims always consists of three dimensions. You can't discuss Latino Muslims without discussing Latinos, Muslims, and Latino Muslims. Who are Latinos? Who are Muslims? Who are Latino Muslims? You must have an idea about the meaning of each component to have a better understanding of Latino Muslims. As you can imagine, disagreements abound about the meaning of each of these three dimensions. Attempts to answer these three questions leads to other questions, and consequently, a better understanding about Latino Muslims. These are the types of questions that I will address throughout this article. I will focus my discussion on Latino Muslims, because plenty of information is currently available about Latinos and Muslims. I have addressed each of the three questions in previous articles, and I will continue to write more articles about these topics.

- How many Latino Muslims are there in the US?
The exact number of Latino Muslims is difficult to determine, because the U.S. Census Bureau does not collect information about religion. In 1997, the American Muslim Council counted approximately 40,000 Hispanic Muslims. Current estimates range from 25,000 up to 75,000. You can find Latino Muslims in all major cities within the United States. The largest communities are found in New York, Chicago, Miami, Houston, Los Angeles, and other areas which traditionally have a large number of Latinos and Muslims.

As a rule of thumb, the size of the Latino Muslim population within a particular area generally corresponds to the size of the overall Muslim population within that area. For example, an area, whether city or state, with a large number of Muslims usually has more Latino Muslims than an area with fewer Muslims. However, no precise numbers exist regarding the number of Latino Muslims within particular cities or states. In general, people come to Islam through interaction with Muslims. Therefore, there is no surprise that the Dallas and Houston areas within Texas have the largest populations of Latino Muslim Texans. At least a hundred Latinos are affiliated with one particular Dallas mosque, although it's likely that the overall number of Latino Muslims in the area is much higher. Many Latino Muslims choose not to attend mosques.

In Texas and California, the majority of Latino Muslims are Mexicans or Central Americans whereas on the east coast Latino Muslims are mostly Puerto Rican or Dominican. This is not surprising considering the dispersion of the Latino population within the United States. Texas seems to have fewer Latino Muslims than California and New York. Perhaps, because the Muslim community in Texas is younger and consists of a smaller Muslim population than many other states. No, I don't know what percentage of Latino Muslims are Mexican-American or Puerto Rican-American. No, I don't know what percentage of the Mexican-American Muslim population lives in Texas or California. I wish better research was conducted to find more, reliable information.

- Which countries do they come from?

The terms 'Latino' and 'Hispanic' denote an ethnicity, not a race. Latino and Hispanic are essentually synonymous although many Latinos prefer the term 'Latino.' Latinos are a segment of the population within the United States. For example, people who live in Mexico or Venezuela generally do not refer to themselves as Latino or Hispanic. Many Latinos who have immigrated to Canada, England, and elsewhere from the United States have maintained their ethnicity as Latino and/or Hispanic. Therefore, Latino Muslims can be found around the world. I've had contact with Latino Muslims from Canada, England, Saudi Arabia, and even Australia. Latinos are not limited to any racial category. You can find Black, White, and Brown Latinos.

Some people limit 'Latino' and 'Hispanic' to immigrants or descendants of immigrants from Spanish speaking countries. However, many people include all immigrants or descendants of immigrants from Latin America in their definition of Latino, including Brazil, which is the largest country in South America. Because Brazilians speak Portuguese, Latinos aren't necessarily limited to speaking the same language. Latino Muslims come from all Latin American countries. Presently, all countries in Latin America have a high concentration of Muslims, which consist of both immigrants and native converts. The number of Muslims in Latin America is now over six million. The Muslim population of Argentina is over 700,000, and Brazil's is over 1,500,000.

The Islamic Organization of Latin America (IOLA), also known as the Organizacion Islamica Para America Latina (OIPAL), in Buenos Aires, Argentina is the biggest, most active Muslim organization in Latin America. The Annual Meeting of the Heads of Islamic Associations and Cultural Centres in Latin America and the Caribbean Islands is attended by representatives for at least thirty-five Islamic associations and cultural centers in Latin America. They meet to discuss various common interests, such as fostering Islamic values and education in Latin America. The meeting is sponsored by the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) and the Organización Latinoamericana para la Difusión del Islam (OLPADI) aka Latin American Organization for Islamic Propagation (LAOIP). Established by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), ISESCO is one of the largest Islamic organizations in the world and focuses on the fields of education, science and culture.

- What is their profile, are they new immigrants or Latinos that have lived in the US for generations, do they speak Spanish, English, or both?
How much Spanish and English that an American Latino Muslim knows generally depends on where they currently live in America and how long they have lived in America. For example, Hispanic Muslims in southern California and southern Texas generally have less command of the English language than Hispanic Muslims in northern California and northern Texas. Many second and third generation Latinos may know little or no Spanish. Most Latino Muslims I have had contact with have lived in America for generations. Of course, recent immigrants generally have less command of the English language. A large percentage of the new American Latino population is from immigration and will continue to be from immigration. This is yet another reason for more Spanish-speaking Muslims today and tomorrow.

- Why do Latinos convert to Islam?
Conversion has and will always be a personal choice. Why people choose Islam depends on the individual you ask. The most common answer I get when I ask a Hispanic why he or she chose Islam is "Because it's the truth." Most Hispanic converts were Catholic. Many Hispanics had difficulty with the church hierarchy, believing in original sin, and in the Holy Trinity. Islam solves the problems many Hispanics have with the Catholic Church. For example, in Islam there is no priest-pope hierarchy. Everyone who prays together before God is equal. Many Latino converts also feel Islam gives them a closer relationship with God. The executive director of the Secretariat for Hispanic Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Ronaldo Cruz, said he can't fathom what the attraction of Islam is for recent immigrants. He simply cannot fathom that Islam is the true religion of God. Islam 'sells' itself so to speak. People from everywhere are searching for the truth, and they find it in Islam. People love the teachings of Islam. Islam is an attractive religion for many Americans. Alhamdulila. Many Latinos are reverting to Islam. We say 'reversion' because all people are born Muslim, but it's our parents and environment that make us a Christian or Jew. Conversion to Islam is a way of reclaiming what you really are - a Muslim.

- Do many women convert because they have married a Muslim man?
Conversion to Islam generally results from interaction between Muslims and nonMuslims. For example, a Muslim and nonMuslim may be coworkers, classmates, or friends. The nonMuslim will learn about Islam from the Muslim and may eventually convert to Islam. The Qur'an asks you to stop and reflect about God's creation. These various relationships offer many nonMuslims an opportunity to stop and consider the teachings of Islam that we Muslims cherish. No one can be forced into a religion. Only God knows what's in your heart. Many times, women learn about their husband's religion, convert to Islam, and ultimately, bring their nonpracticing husbands back to Islam. Most Latinas I've had contact with became Muslim before they were married. After learning the truth, Latinas just go for it. I think Hispanic men are more hardheaded than Latinas. Islam gives many women peace and freedom from the "Maybelline slavery" created by our American culture. Like many women, Latinas are tired of being viewed primarily as sex objects and being judged primarily on their appearance. Indeed, the Islam I know elevates women! The role of women's rights in Islam impress many women. The Latino Muslim movement is a movement primarily by Latinas. This reality is a big step toward understanding Islam for what it really is.

- Are people concerned about leaving their original culture?
What is original culture? Defining culture by religion is not very effective because our ancestors were Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or pagan. Many Hispanics think that leaving Catholicism means rejecting their identity. We should reevaluate how we traditionally define culture. Although some people define culture as something static, I think defining culture as a dynamic process is more accurate. The current Latino culture is merely today's Latino culture. If in a hundred years from now most American Latinos are Muslim, the typical Latino would consider Islam inseparable from the Latino culture. The Latino culture of today could become the Latino Muslim culture of tomorrow. Because Latino Muslims are a young community, clearly defining our Latino Muslim culture is difficult. Islam sets the framework and direction that the Latino Muslim culture takes. Taking up Islam means rejecting some old ways, accepting some new ways, and adapting when necessary. We are Americans, Latinos, and Muslims but we are Muslims first. Crecemos unidos. Crecemos juntos. We grow united. We grow together. We seek to establish Islam within the various aspects of our lives.

- Is it difficult to be a Latino Muslim? How do other Latinos accept it?
Yes, being Muslim can be difficult. Whereas Christian faith is largely associated with belief, Islamic faith is largely associated with deeds. We're best known for doing this or not doing that but few nonMuslims seem to know what we believe. I put my faith in Allah. I know that rules exist for a purpose. By following the rules, we find peace in our own personal lives and in the lives around us. Life is a struggle to do good and avoid evil. Islam is a way of life, and we'll experience many trials in life. We should try to perfect our faith in God. When I first became Muslim, I thought Islam was difficult, and I still think it's difficult. But practicing Islam has become easier. I can be either a good Muslim or a bad Muslim, and I choose to become a better Muslim. I am not perfect. Before becoming a Muslim, I thought Muslims were the most religious people in the world. Many Muslims are in denial that the Muslim community is very weak today. We only hurt ourselves when we don't discuss the realities. Perhaps, my own hope and expectations are too high.

Yes, being a Latino Muslim can be difficult. A Latina Muslimah from Arizona told me that her cousins think she is oppressed because she doesn't go out partying, drinking, and dancing. Many Latinos wonder, 'Why would you ever quit drinking and eating pork?' Some Latinos think you're a 'race traitor' for giving up pork chops. I don't think that being a nondrinker makes me less of a Latino. At least, I know I'll never become an alcoholic. Many Latinos have much respect for Latino Muslims. They are impressed with our decision to take on a different type of lifestyle. They admire our courage. We Muslims don't spend our days trying to impress everyone, all the time. My family was pretty tolerant and accepting when I told them that I converted. My family made some comments but nothing derogatory against Islam or the Prophet (pbuh). I've heard horror stories from some converts. Muslims achieve peace and freedom by submitting only to God.

Like most Americans, most Latinos don't know what Islam is. After telling my dad that I converted to Islam, he asked, "¿Que es eso?" He asked, "What is that?" I responded, "It's a religion." Then, after telling him a little about it, he replied, "¿Como los Arabes?" I responded, "No, it's for everyone." From the beginning of my journey in Islam, I learned that my family might be among the most unknowledgeable about Islam. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions. For example, one of my sisters asked me, "Don't you still love Jesus? How could you do this to the Virgin Mary?" I replied, "I still love Jesus. We believe he's a Prophet. There's also a chapter called Mary in the Qur'an." Muslims and Christians both honor the Virgin Mary. We have to educate Latinos about Islam. When accused of worshipping "Allah," I say we worship "Dios." God, Dios, and Allah mean the same thing. God exists independent of reason but the concept of God varies by religion. Many Latinos think that Islam is a religion of Arabs. Yet, Arabs make up only 25% of the entire Muslim population. Many Latinos are amazed to learn that Spain was Muslim for over 700 years! Latinos today are still influenced by Islamic Spain. For example, 1000s of Spanish words are derived from Arabic. LADO members practice Islam as expressed by the Qur'an and the authentic Sunnah, God-willing.

- How do other Muslims relate to you as a Latino Muslim and toward other Latino Muslims in general?
My overall experience with Muslims raised in a Muslim family has been pleasant. I greatly appreciate the love and support we receive from raised Muslims. Many mosques, Muslim organizations, and individual Muslims actively work with Latino Muslims on projects with the hope of strengthening the Muslim community as a whole. We can only help the general Muslim population if it knows we Latino Muslims exist and that we here to help. Sometimes, I think that most raised Muslims don't know we exist. We're a growing minority. Unfortunately, some raised Muslims have negative stereotypes about Latinos. Some raised Muslims think all Latinos are promiscuous and incapable of becoming a 'real' Muslim. And, some Latino Muslims have similar thoughts about raised Muslims. Sometimes, Muslim immigrants and American born Muslims aren't too sure how to deal with each other. I deal with every Muslim as an individual and avoid stereotypes that can endanger our relationship with one another. Islam is a universal brotherhood, and I'm happy to be among the Muslims.

- Do non-Muslims mistake the Muslim religion with the Arab ethnicity?
Yes. When you turn on the TV if you see a Muslim, you'll hear the word 'Arab.' Many people still don't know that the Taliban were not Arabs. The country with the largest Muslim population is Indonesia. Muslims are everywhere. I'm a Mexican-American Muslim who grew up in the Texas Panhandle. Before visiting a mosque, I thought all mosques were packed with Arabs but most American Muslims are Pakistani or Bengali. I once asked an Asian brother how long he'd been a Muslim. Azlan said his parents and grandparents were all Muslim. I was stunned. He's from Malaysia. The Prophet said that Islam would reach every household. Today, we see signs of this happening in our own neighborhoods.

- How can the Mexican American community benefit from Islam?
The question that should be asked is "how can someone benefit from Islam?" Islam is the truth, and if the truth shall set your free, then we should all embrace Islam. We can all benefit from the lessons of Islam. Islam is God's true catholic religion. Catholic means for all people, for all places, and for all time. The direction of the Bible is about worshipping only God rather than about accepting Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Islam is a universal message. Worship only God. Put God first in all your affairs. Islamic monotheism was the same message of the various prophets. Like the various prophets, Muhammad (phub) was a warner and a bringer of good news. Muhammad is God's last Prophet and Messenger. Islam is a message of guidance and hope for all people.

- Do you have to learn Arabic, in order to study the Qur'an?
Muslims should seek to maintain and preserve the religion. We believe that God's original religion was Islam. Then, His religion was split into many different religions. Islam is one religion and properly understanding the Qur'an ensures that our religion remains as one. You can study the Qur'an in English and Spanish, but you should also try to learn the language that the Qur'an was revealed in to truly comprehend what the Qur'an means. The Qur'an is in Arabic. Everything else is a translation. If you read a Spanish book and want to truly understand what the book means, you read the book in Spanish. Like with Spanish, you'll find Arabic words absent in the English vocabulary. Many Arabic words also have multiple meanings so unless you know the Arabic word; you can get a wrong meaning from the Qur'anic verse.

- Do Latinos also educate their children about Islam?
Muslim parents want to see their children grow up to be good Muslims. Latino Muslims are no different. We want our kids to pray regularly. We want our kids to be educated in the various Islamic sciences. We want our kids to memorize the Qur'an and to learn Arabic. English, Spanish, and Arabic are an interesting combination. We want our kids to be good Muslims. We Latino Muslims are educating the next generation of Latino Muslims to become a stronger generation. In a few generations, Latino Muslim scholars will be found in most major cities in America. Conversion to Islam is very popular and more acceptable among African-Americans because of people like Malcolm X or Muhammad Ali. Latino Muslims don't have many rolemodels. We are a young community, and our rolemodels are bound to follow. God-willing always.

- Are Hispanics Muslims attracted by Islam more as a social approach to life than a religious one? Is Islam a "family thing"?
Hispanic Muslims are attracted to Islam because it's true. However, many Latinos are amazed to see the familiarity between the Muslim and Latino cultures. Latinos have a love for family and religion. Islam is both a family and a religion. As Muslims, we are all bonded by a universal brotherhood. When I'm at the mosque, I'm at home with family. We hug each other. We eat together. People are generally friendly. Islam is a very warm culture like the Hispanic culture. Throughout the day, we all must make decisions, and Islam is our guide. Our religion doesn't end once we leave the mosque.

- What are the main difficulties that you have to face?
I always feel as if I never do enough. I feel guilty for not reading more books, not listening to more lectures, and not spending more time at the mosque. I also worry that people will reject me. It was a fear before I embraced Islam, and it's still a fear. Some people in my family still don't know. When I became Muslim, I was determined to be a good Muslim. If I didn't want to practice Islam, I would not have converted. If you're a good Muslim, everyone knows. Muslims are supposed to pray five times a day, and so when prayer time comes around it's time to pray. Telling friends and family you want to pray can be somewhat embarrassing. But Muslims are supposed to stand out anyway. I feel alienated sometimes from the general Muslim population. Because there aren't many Latinos Muslims, I feel alienated sometimes from the general Latino population, too. Some Muslim converts don't attend the mosque regularly because they feel alienated and lonely. Sometimes I think that my old friends must think I'm a weirdo for taking on this 'foreign' religion and then I worry that maybe they are right. American converts to Islam don't become outsiders, and certainly not United States immigrants, for merely taking on a new religion. I know my worries and thoughts are merely worries and thoughts. I seek refuge in Allah from the whispers of Satan.

- And the joys?
Islam is a beautiful religion. I'm at more peace now than I've ever been in my life. I've learned that you can find happiness in slavery. I'm a slave to only God. I love meeting converts. I've been fortunate to meet a former Hindu, Jew, and Christian minister. I feel very close to converts. I am happy more and more Latinos are embracing Islam. I am happy that we converts are an inspiration for many Muslims. When I pray at a mosque, I get the opportunity to pray beside people of all races and nationalities. We don't distinguish each other by race, nationality, or social class but only piety. We're just Muslims. Together with a billion other Muslims, we form concentric circles around the Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. I can't imagine never praying beside other Muslims again. When I pray, I know that brothers and sisters from around America are praying, too. When I embraced Islam, I joined a universal brotherhood. The brotherhood of Islam transcends all other brotherhoods.

- Have you felt harassed since the September 11th terrorist attacks?
I heard some negative comments about Islam. Many Americans seem to think that Muslims wear turbans, thobes, and sandals all the time. After hearing negative comments about Islam, I'd reply by saying that Muslims aren't so bad, that they are actually everywhere, and that I'm one of them. A few days after September 11, this guy on campus was saying that the "Muslims did this" and that. A Muslim in the crowd responded by saying, "I didn't do anything." The guy looked confused as if wanting to ask the Muslim, "Then where's your turban and long beard?" Some drunken redneck chased a Muslim friend calling him an "Arab bastard." He's not Arab. He's an Indian. Other Americans stopped him. One of my sisters said something like "That leader of ya'lls he's gonna call a holy war." CNN should take a poll to find out how many Americans believe bin Laden is the Muslim leader. Soon after the attacks, my dad asked my mom, "What'd he get himself into?" They hadn't heard from me in a while so they were a little concerned. I reminded my parents that Muslims are not a gang of fifty members. There are over 1.2 billion Muslims in the world. Some people act as if some Arab in Saudi Arabia has a long list of Muslims and can call anyone on the list when he wants to blow up a building. I have much sympathy for the families that were directly affected by the 9-11 tragedy.

- What is your opinion about these Islamic terrorist groups?
Islam strongly condemns terrorism. Islam means peace through submission to our Creator. Many groups throughout centuries have used religion for evil, political purposes. Today, we continue to see this occur around the world. Unfortunately, many Americans don't differentiate between terrorism and Islam. Many people prefer that you don't see a difference between the two. Muslims acknowledge that Islam is perfect and that Muslims are imperfect. I think only those responsible for terrorist activities, such as the 9-11 tragedy, should apologize, and they should be brought to justice. The tragedy wasn't my fault nor the fault of my religion. As for Jose Padilla, I have sympathy for him and his family. People have an innate desire to make life a little better. Jose most likely had good intentions but good intentions can lead to much evil. Like John Walker, Jose was taken advantage of. I don't think either knew what they were getting into. It's bizarre that a Latino Muslim would get into this dilemma considering there aren't many of us.

- What's your opinion of the Catholic Church?
In terms of religious belief, I am a Muslim and reject any Christian ideas that are contrary to Islam. If you study Islam and Christianity side-by-side, I think that most people will find Islam to be the better religion but it's not enough to embrace Islam simply because you don't like Christianity. We embrace Islam for what it is and not only for what it is not. We need to believe and want to practice Islam. Many former Catholics have much resentment against the Catholic Church, and you will hear this when speaking with them. I don't think that the Catholic Church contributes to class inequality as some Muslims claim. As Muslims, we learn that someone must provide for the poor and that means each of us. Muslims give 2% of their wealth annually to help the less fortunate. In all major cities in America, you see the Catholic Church help the less fortunate by supporting soup kitchens, homeless shelters, orphanages, etc. You don't see that very often among American Muslims but I have a good feeling we'll continue to take a larger role in helping less fortunate Americans. Even if we don't create our own homeless shelters, we'll continue to volunteer our time and energy at homeless shelters or anywhere else we are needed. Muslims want to help make this world a better place. One way is by reaching out to those in need.

- How did you get in contact with Islam for the first time?
Soon after an argument with a Christian of another denomination, I met a Latino Muslim who spoke with me about Islam. I didn't seriously consider converting until three years later. I didn't want to change. More people would convert to Islam if we were better Muslims. If Armando had not been praying, I would not have known he was Muslim, and we would not have spoken. I visited a mosque regularly for about a month before converting. I fell in love with Islam while listening to talks about brotherhood, prayer, and charity. I found myself intrigued by these guys who found time to pray five times a day. Many were college students who had figured out ways to pray at the mosque two or three times a day. I was amazed by these people who could fast (not eat or drink anything) from sunrise until sunset for an entire month. I thought to myself, "Wow, that's faith!" I was impressed by the self-discipline and brotherhood among these Muslims. They lived simple lives and were happy with what they had. They lived their lives around Islam. They were very much at peace. I wanted to be one of these Muslims.

- Is Islam a "recruiting, proselytizing" religion, like some Protestant groups that are very active in trying to get new people?
Within the American Muslim community, you'll rarely see commercials about Islam or billboards saying things such as "Have you visited your mosque today?" Muslims are generally subtle in their ways. After embracing Islam, I was very excited, and I want more people to feel this excitement. Yes, I would love to see television commercials, billboards, and mass mailings about Islam. I wish Islamic literature was more freely available to all Americans. No one can force Islam on people. No one can change a person's life and way of thinking. Because sincerity in belief is important, I would be saddened if all Latinos converted to Islam tomorrow but none cared to learn salat or the definition of tawheed. Although we are not Allah's sales staff, we Muslims agree that everyone has a right to hear the beautiful message of Islam. If someone accepts Islam, only Allah has guided him or her.

- What are some events and activities by Latino Muslims?
More and more Latino Muslim events and activities have occurred around the country. Some are entirely by Latino Muslims. Some are by both Latino and non-Latino Muslims. Many local Muslim communities have hosted mosque open houses in English and Spanish if not entirely in Spanish. Latino Muslims participate in various Muslim and non-Muslim conferences and conventions. Latino Muslims often participate in interfaith dialogues. Latino Muslims have made presentations at mosques, high schools, colleges, prisons, churches, and at various organizations. Latino Muslims are also responsible for much of the Spanish Islamic literature available. Many small, informal groups of Latino Muslims meet regularly to studying Islam. Some of these groups have evolved into formal Latino Muslim organizations.

Latino Muslims are members of almost every national and local Muslim organization within the United States. For example, many Latino Muslims in universities are members of the Muslim Students Association (MSA). Many Latino Muslims interested in working on the behalf of the civil rights of Muslims are members of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Many Latino Muslims have assisted local Muslim charity groups, such as Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMANCentral) in Chicago. The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) hosts an annual conference entitled Islam Among Latino Americans. Latino Muslims also regularly assist and support WhyIslam, an Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) project. Latino Muslims are actively involved in the various stages of many Muslim events, such as planning, marketing, and implementation. I expect more Latino Muslims events and activities as more Latinos embrace Islam.

- Why is dawah to Latinos important?
Many Americans have learned about the growing number of Latino Muslims in numerous publications. While celebrating such attention, we must not lose focus on the reasons for dawah to Latinos. I have compiled a list of ten reasons why dawah to Latino Americans is important although I'm sure there are even more reasons.

First: Muslims have a responsibility to share Islam with all nonMuslims. Because Islam is true, we should desire to present Islam to the masses.
Second: A large number of Latinos live in the US. According to the US 2000 Census, 32.8 million Hispanics live in the United States. Recently, the US Census stated that there are now more Latinos in the US than African-Americans.
Third: The US Latino population is growing very fast. The Latino population in the US is expected to grow to 63 million by 2030, and 88 million by 2050. By then, one out of every four Americans will be Latino.
Fourth: The rate of conversion among Latinos is lower than that among Caucasians and African-Americans. According to the 2001 Mosque in America Report, there's an estimated annual growth of 20,000 converts nationally each year. Of these converts, 63% of converts are African-American, 27% of converts are White, and 6% are Hispanic. Only 6% converting are Hispanic!
Fifth: There are few Latino Muslims. Although there are six million US Muslims, only 40,000 are Latino Muslims. Using these figures, Latino Muslims only make up 0.6% of the American Muslim population. Only 0.6% of American Muslims are Hispanic!
Sixth: A leading barrier for Latinos interested in Islam is the lack of access to Spanish Islamic literature. Much Spanish literature, whether printed, audio, or audiovisual, needs to be developed. Many Latinos know only Spanish but most Muslims do not know Spanish.
Seventh: As Latino Muslims, we are more familiar with Latino culture than are nonLatinos. People are often more interested in Islam when it comes from people like themselves. We can change the negative perception of Islam within the Latino community.
Eighth: As more Latinos embrace Islam, you will see more conversion to Islam from the general American population. Latino Muslims spark a curiosity in Islam. What are Latinos converting? What is it about that religion?
Ninth: Latinos are essential and influential within all spheres of American society - politically, socially, and economically. For example, because Latinos influence the decisions of lawmakers, it's only logical that we Muslims would want more Latinos to support Muslim causes.
Tenth: Islam in America strengthens from the additional human and material resources that result when more Americans embrace Islam. As more Americans embrace Islam, we will see more dawah, more activism, and other types of volunteer work. Reverts will also help establish and/or strengthen American Muslim institutions such as mosques and universities.

In summary, Muslims have a responsibility to share Islam with all nonMuslims. Hispanics are the fastest growing minority group in America, and Islam is the fastest growing religion in America. Success of Islam in America depends upon the fastest growing minority group embracing the fastest growing religion. Unfortunately, many American Muslim organizations are only now beginning to grasp this reality. We must address the reasons why the number of Latino Muslims and the rate of conversion among Latinos are both low. All American Muslims benefit when more Latinos come to Islam.

- What can Muslims do to promote Islam to Latinos?
There are many things that we can do. Promoting Islam to Latinos is largely about fulfilling needs. Whereas one Latino Muslim may need help with food and shelter, another Latino Muslim may need Spanish literature for a dawah table. But it's up to us to help both of them. We also need to educate our ownselves about Islam because we can only teach what we know. The following list is a helpful start on how the general Muslim community can begin outreach to the Latino community.
· Mosques should have basic materials in Spanish and other languages readily available including Qur'ans, books, cassettes, and instructional CDs.
· Mosques should identify Spanish-speaking Muslims (not necessarily Latino) if needed to train Latinos how to pray, to read Qur'an, and to teach them about Islam in general.
· Dawah committees of mosques should work with local Latino Muslims to ensure more effective dawah to the Latino community.
· Local communities should create forums to discuss important matters of the local Latino Muslim community and Latinos in general.
· Muslims and Latino Muslims should participate in interfaith dialogues at churches, primarily at Catholic Churches.
· Muslims and Latino Muslims should volunteer to aid Latinos as needed within heavily populated Latino neighborhoods and schools. · All mosques should have information about local Latino Muslims and about national Latino Muslim organizations to direct Latinos for information and support.

- How can I learn more about Latino Muslims?
Most information available about Latino Muslims comes from Latino Muslim organizations. Academia has for the most part ignored the Latino Muslim community. For example, Latino Muslims are rarely mentioned in books about American Muslims. Several newspapers and magazines by Muslims and non-Muslims have published articles about the growing Latino Muslim community. A quick search on "Latino Muslims" using any search engine will reveal hundreds of articles on the subject. You may also want to check out www.LatinoDawah.org and HispanicMuslims.com. Both websites are very comprehensive. You may want to spend some time checking out the sections found on both websites.

References

Ihsan Bagby, PhD, et al. "The Mosque In America: A National Portrait." CAIR. April 2001. <http://www.cair-net.org/mosquereport/Masjid_Study_Project_2000_Report.pdf>

Sanchez, Samantha and Juan Galvan. "Latino Muslims - The Changing Face of Islam in America." Islamic Horizons. July/August 2002. pp 22-30.

U.S. Census. Ethnic and Hispanic Statistics Branch. "U.S. Hispanic Population: 2000." <http://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/hispanic/p20-535/p20-535.pdf>

US Census Bureau. "We the American…Hispanics." Issued September 1993. <http://www.census.gov/apsd/wepeople/we-2r.pdf>

The Latino Muslim Experience

By Edmund A. Arroyo

A Perspective from Chicago of the Latino Muslim Experience.

When talking with members of the Latino Community that have, by the mercy of Allah (SWT), embraced Islam, one finds some common factors. Regardless of their cultural background, most new Muslims can identify with an initial feeling of religious enthusiasm. The new Muslim wants to read every Islamic book, memorize the Qur'an, learn every dua, go to Hajj, and convert their family all in one year. All too often the 'pre-Shahada' person finds him/herself cornered in the mosque with a brother or sister that wants to teach the whole Qur'an in one sitting. The 'pre-Shahada' person finds himself bombarded with more information than he/she can handle regarding the prohibitions and truths of Islam.

Eventually, by the mercy of Allah (SWT) the person says the Shahada, and is greeted with great smiles and hugs from his new brothers in Islam. The paradox of this joyous occasion is that while the new Muslim entertains the thought of having all of his sins forgiven, the hardest part of the journey has just begun. As one of our respected scholars once said, 'When you are a kafir, the shaytan doesn't take you seriously, because you are like his puppet, easily controlled. But when you become Muslim, the shaytan fights harder than ever to regain that control, resulting in some of the most difficult trials.' When you consider the social implications for the new Muslim, especially the Latino Muslim, this is most evident.

Islam seems to attract most Latinos by way of its rationality and its direct spiritual connection with our Creator. The Religion of simplicity, lacking grandiose rituals and murky doctrine, leads the Latino from worshipping saints and Mary (r.a.a), to worshipping the One God. Most Latinos are raised Roman Catholic, which can be distinguished from the Catholicism of European countries by its emphasis on Mary, or La Virgin de Guadalupe. Their religious traditions often seem to be based on faith alone, with a historical context often unknown to your average Latino. Through gradual study of Islamic doctrine, the Latino finds explanations in Islam that could not be provided by other religions. Other oases that provide nourishment in this journey include the history of Muslim Spain and the Conquest of the Native Americans. The Latino Muslim conversion can often be traced to this rediscovery of their ancestral roots. This is paralleled in the African American Community. As is the case for many Muslim converts, it is simply a matter of placing all of the facts on the table and discerning between truth and falsehood. The problem comes when the Muslim community doesn't place itself as an option to the multiple-choice question.

About 60 percent of new Muslims mention a Muslim friend as being essential in their conversion to Islam. The Latino convert often rejects Catholicism years before choosing another religion. We find a lot of Latinos leave the Catholic Church and join the Pentecostal and Jehovah's Witness faiths, both of which appear to offer a clearer definition of practice and ideology than Catholicism. When you consider this information, one must conclude that exposing the Latino to the religion of Islam will result in an increased number of Latinos embracing Islam. With a religion as powerful as ours, one need only to befriend and then demonstrate a better option. Our best Dawah would be accomplished by our actions. The next very crucial step is to welcome the New Latino Muslim into our Ummah.

An Arab brother once mentioned that they consider Islam to be the Latino Convert' Amana (legacy) returning to them. Although not all Latinos can trace their roots to Spain, I mention this point not to distinguish ancestry, but brotherhood. All too often, the New Muslim walks toward the house of Islam with a group of Muslim brothers at his side, coaching and convincing him of his decision to accept Islam. However, as the new Muslim crosses the threshold into Islam, he finds himself very alone. He finds himself breaking his fast alone, praying alone, studying alone, and sometimes spending the Eid alone. This is in sharp contrast to the traditions of family, unity and community that the Latino is accustomed to. This struggle is compiled by the hostility of those family members that have little or no understanding of Islam, and the unwillingness of many Muslims to marry outside of their culture. Once the religion is embraced, invite the new Muslim to your home for Iftar. Call them to notify them of the Eid. Invite them to study the life of the Prophet (saws). Demonstrate the true brotherhood that Islam has to offer.

To establish a Muslim/Latino culture may take a generation or two, but the success will depend upon our perspective. We must strive to incorporate our culture by defining what Islam is and how our culture can adapt to it. This could mean cooking traditional Latino recipes with fish instead or pork. We must caution ourselves against a Latino Muslim identity of rules and prohibitions. The advice of Dr. Umar Farooq Abd Allah, will be useful in this cause: "Islam does not ask you to leave your cultural roots. It asks you to water them, and find what is beautiful in them." May Allah (SWT) guide us on the straight path. May he guide all new Muslims to the truth. May He make us all among the ansar, strengthening the iman of the Muslim convert.

A Letter to my Family

By Michelle Al-Nasr

http://islamicweb.com/begin/newMuslims/convert_letter.htm

I am writing this for all my Muslim brothers and sisters who have converted (or re-verted) to Islam, and have had the courage, against all odds, to stand firm on their beliefs - no matter how great the cost. I want to convey the sorrow I share with many of my fellow brothers and sisters in Islam, that have had to distance themselves from their families, because of their acceptance of the religion of Islam.

I want to first tell you, "I love you", you are my family, I have not forgotten you. It breaks my heart that if you do not agree with my life choice, that you have chosen to reject me. If you do not agree with me, then at least respect my decision. If you only knew how difficult this decision was for me, how difficult it is to be a Muslim. Especially, a Muslim woman. Did you ever try to imagine what kind of commitment it takes to be a Muslim? It is not as easy as you may think. I want to let you into my mind. I want you to look through my eyes, and just know - if only for a moment - how I have felt, what I have dealt with and what it is like to for me.

Think for one minute about something that means so much to you, something that you feel so strongly about, that you are willing to undergo losing your entire family and friends as you know it. Becoming estranged to the same people that you have known all your living years. All of the sudden, you are the outcast, the lost soul who doesn't have enough sense to know what you are doing, everyone is telling you that you are throwing your entire life away. Think about how strong you must feel about the actions you are taking. Not just any actions, mind you, but actions that take sincerity and a firm belief. Actions that are not to be taken lightly. Actions with consequences which include: sacrifice, loss, humiliation, degradation and racism to name only a few. Continue to think about something in your life that means this much to you. Would you be willing to sacrifice you career? Money? Your new car? Your house? Would it be easy for you to give up many of the pleasures that this life has to offer? Think about your family. How would you handle losing your entire family for this 'something' that means so much to you.

No longer are you wanted to even talk for a while, for fear that you might mention this 'something' that means so much to you. You mention it, why? Because it is the 'something' by which you base and dedicate your entire life to. Of course, if talking means to discuss the things that means so much to others, you should not be offended, you should only be quiet and listen. After all, it is important to them. Maybe they might bring up the something they heard on the news, the 'something' that you dedicate your entire life to, but do not disagree - nor tell them what you know from hands-on research and personal experience - only listen, because the TV knows more, and so do they. You must realize, as well, that because of this 'something' you have chosen, you know longer have a right to discuss or comment on any matter about the city, state or country you have spent your whole life in, if you do - you now are told (instead being respected for an intelligent opinion) you should be expelled from the country.

Think about going to the store just to pick up some bread. As you get in your car and drive down the road someone begins screaming curse words at the very sight of you, dressed according to this 'something' that you believe so firmly about, probably they think that you don't understand them - but you do, and all too well. Just get used to it, it happens quite often. Also, remember that you are oppressed and you are looked at with pity and contempt, as an oppressed woman - having no mind of her own. All this, even though this 'something' is what you chose, what you live everyday - not by force, but because you believe it is right. Keep all of this in mind as you are driving in your car. Walking into the store, you feel all eyes are on you - all of the sudden you hear laughing - you think to yourself, they aren't laughing at me, are they? But of course, you know better, because every time you leave your house people are constantly either making fun of you or cursing you, one of the two. All because of this 'something' you love. At the bread aisle, you notice the grocery store security guard seems to be following you up and down each aisle in the store, when you look in his direction, he discreetly glares at the kitty litter boxes on sale, not wanting to give himself away. As you get to the cashier, ready to check out - you notice how courteous the cashier is to the woman in front of you. Don't get your hopes up, there will be none of that when it is your turn. They really don't care, 'How are you doing, today?'. They just take you money, and glare at you.

Never mind, you
are on your way home. In your car you notice your gas gage and panic a little, it's on empty, and you need some gas, but don't chance it, do not stop - if you were to try to pay for the gas, even though you could be waving your money, they will most likely assume that you are there to rob them. It is better to go straight home, home is comfort. By the time you get home, hoping for relief, you notice a crowd of kids around your house, and wonder what they are up to. After you get in the house, someone starts knocking at your door. You answer the door, but no one is there. You walk outside to get the mail, and the kids run from behind the corner of your house yelling, "You don't belong here!". A while later, the teenagers in the neighborhood decide to join in on the fun by standing in your driveway and cursing you, as you are standing inside your own home. And this is only the beginning of the days in your life, but wait, there's so much more... Now stop and think. Is there anything that you love so much?

Well, you may ask, 'Is it worth it?' I will tell you without hesitation, Yes it is. All that and more. Because this 'something', Islam, is my way of life, my love, my peacefulness, and my hope. You may think, "That doesn't sound very peaceful, being harassed and all". But it is. Not the harassment, of course, but the purpose behind it. The reasons that I dress as I dress, and I live in the manner I have chosen. And I want to say again, do not think for a second I take this lightly. I believe and know this way of life to be right and true.

If you cannot be happy for me, at least be content to know that you have raised someone that stands firm in what she believes. Not just a blind follower, not just one of the crowd, not someone who will be swayed at the drop of a hat. If you cannot support me in my decision , then be satisfied to respect me for my convictions, morals and values. Not an immoral, vulgar, and dishonorable life. Know that what I believe in, Islam, is not something I believe in because it's the popular thing to do, or that it the best way to 'Gain Friends and Influence People'. Realize, this is not a faze I am going through and I am not an over-zealous fanatic. I am striving to be the best Muslim that I can be. That is something that is not easy, but I believe that it will lead me to Paradise if I strive hard enough, and stand firm on the beliefs that "There is nothing worthy of worship but God alone, associating no partner with Him". Where was it that I learned that I should strive to be the best I can be, and to try my hardest to stand firm on the things that I believe are just and truthful? Hey, wasn't that you? Didn't you teach me that?

Review of 3 Spanish Qurans

A Brief Review of 3 Spanish translations of the Quran
by Alejandro Hamed

http://www.soundvision.com/Info/quran/spanish.asp

It used to be really difficult to find an English translation of the Quran. That has now changed, as various translators and publishers work to regularly improve the quality of their translations of the Book of Allah. Today, Spanish translations of the Quran are where English ones once were. They are few and far between. However, with the growing number of Spanish-speaking Muslims, mostly converts to Islam, this is changing. Br. Alejandro Hamed is one of these Spanish-speaking Muslims. He has reviewed three current translations of the Quran in Spanish. Here are his thoughts.

I have obtained the following three translations of the Quran in Spanish: the revised third edition of 'El Noble Coran' (Darussalam, Riyadh, December 1997), the Spanish translation of the Quran by Abdel Ghani Melara Navio (a Spaniard who converted to Islam in 1979) and the third US edition of "El Coran" (Tahrike Tarsile Quran, New York, 1992), the Spanish translation of the Quran by the Spaniard Julio Cortes.

For many years, I have had a copy of "El Sagrado Coran" (El Nilo, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1953). This is a translation by two Muslims of Argentinean background, Ahmed Abboud and Rafael Castellanos. I have compared a number of the verses of the Quran as given by these three different translations. Before I give you some of my impressions, let me quote a couple of other opinions.

Thomas Irving, in his introduction to Julio Cortes' edition writes: '...Another translation has been published in the Argentina, which has not reached my hands. The translator is a Muslim.......Up to now, the best version is that by the Spaniard Julio Cortes....'. I presume that the other translation Irving is referring to is the one by Abboud and Castellanos.

Muslim-American author and educator Yahiya Emerick, in the chapter Hispanic-Americans of his book 'How to tell others about Islam' writes: 'The most widely available (Spanish translation) is that of Julio Cortes, although many native speakers dislike the style Cortes used. The translation of Rafael Castellanos, El Sagrado Coran, is more appealing.'

Here are my impressions.

Aboud and Castellanos' translation
This translation is far superior in style, elegance and eloquence to the other two. It takes more liberties in constructing sentences in Spanish, but it remains true to the meaning of the Arabic original (to the extent possible, of course). This translation is often easier to read and grasp than the other two. Aboud and Castellanos' translation is preceded by a brief biography of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), a list of short Hadiths, and an account of the great spiritual and material advances that humanity owes to the Quran. This translation does not contain an analytical index.

Abdel Ghani Melara's translation
This is an acceptable translation. The somewhat plain Spanish he uses lacks the force and eloquence of the version by Abboud and Castellanos, and it is sometimes less clear. On the other hand, I believe it tries to remain closer to the original Arabic text on a word-by-word basis. It provides commentaries to some verses of the Quran. However, the commentaries are brief and few in number. Melara's translation contains a glossary but no analytical index. It is readily available in different sizes and in Spanish-only or in a Spanish-Arabic version.

Julio Cortes' translation
You can add me to the list of native Spanish speakers that dislike this translation. The choice of words, the construction of the sentences, the rhythm of the text, they all leave much to be desired. However, it does contain a glossary and an analytical index.

From the Teacher's Desk

By Tweaka Temple Dilek

From the Teacher's Desk, I

Salaam alaykum, Insha'Allah everyone is well and your month of Ramadan had been well. As a Muslim educator working in a school with a population that is 95% Hispanic, this month gives special opportunities and also difficulties.

As we are all aware an important part of being a good Muslim is Dawah, calling others to Islam. As there have been countless articles posted dealing with this subject, I will not delve into it. However, this is an excellent time for your child to show pride about their Muslim identity but they can't do it with out YOU.

All children are subject to peer pressure. This year I have one student who was embarrassed to tell me she was Muslim. Why you might ask? Think, she is the only religious minority in this ESL class. She doesn't want to be "different". Your child may find themselves in the same position.. He or she may feel anxious as this young student did. The way to combat this is to become involved with your child's class and speak with their teacher.

Call for a Conference
The first thing you should do is call for a conference with the teacher. During this meeting make them aware of Ramadan and its significance to your child. (It would be best if you are friendly and warm during this meeting. This could very well set the tone for the rest of the year.)

Volunteer
Generally, teachers do lessons such as "Christmas Around the World" or "Winter Holidays." In accordance with policy, the lessons should be informational but religion is not to be taught. ( In my class I do one day about Santa and how he was developed in Europe, Hanukkah and also Ramadan. Each with equal time and attention.) Assisting the teacher with the lesson about Ramadan would be an excellent way to make sure that the lesson isn't slanted and that the right information is presented. Surely, any teacher would want a "parent volunteer."

Ideas for a lesson might include: pictures of mosques, Islamic art that the children create or color, a book or movie about Ramadan and quick finger food you have at your home. (Movies can be obtained at a library or Education Service Center).

Be Visible
Visit your child at school. This works especially well with students through Middle School. Spend time with them during the lunch break if they are old enough to fast. If not, then spend lunch with them. This is especially important for sisters who cover. I have found students who are embarrassed to have a hijaabi mother come to school because of other's student's comments. When asked it was because the mother was never involved in the past. START NOW!! I have found that students accept you "as is". This is my first year wearing hijaab at work. My student's accepted this as "the way I am" and don't give another thought to it. In short, if they (your student's classmates) are accustomed to seeing hijaab it won't be traumatic when your daughter wears it.

Read the Social Studies Text of your Child
Finally, take a look at your child's Social Studies book. By 3rd grade other cultures are presented. Find out how Islam and Muslims are portrayed. If Muslims or Islam are listed in the index of the student book there should be background information listed in the Teacher's Edition. It would be a good idea to find out what is written to assist the teacher in presenting the lesson. Simply ask the principal or teacher during your conference if you could take a look at it. There should be NO problem with this AT ALL.

Insha'Allah this will help you have a wonderful experience with your child.

From the Teacher's Desk, II

What is your child eating at school?

"Forbidden to you ( for food) are dead meat, blood, the flesh of swine and that on which hath been invoked a name other than that of Allah [Al-Qu'ran 5:3]"

Those words are more than enough for any Muslim to steer clear of pork derived products and to ensure that their children are not coming into contact with it either. But what is your child eating at school?

This question was raised in my mind when a Muslim student placed school lunch "mystery meat" on his plate. When we discovered that it wasn't beef but pork, we (the student and I) sought to return it we were met with resistance. The cafeteria manager said that she would return it "just this once" but that the child needed to bring a doctor's excuse in the future. I kindly explained that it was a religious issue. She responded that "it might not be good enough." Needless to say this was taken up with school administration and promptly handled. The food was replaced and all was well, al-hamdulillah. But had I not been present? Allahu Alim but I fear this child would have been short changed.

How can you prevent this?

1. The first step is to get a copy of the lunch menu from your school.

According to the Department of Agriculture school food authorities have to advise children and their parents of the use of various types of meat. Foods should be clearly marked if they contain pork. Should the meat be blended it must be clearly m arked. The rule states, "If a school sends menus home, blended products and dishes must not be portrayed as solely beef, pork, poultry or seafood."

2. Send a letter to school stating that your child should not be allowed to choose products containing pork.

Many school students have dietary restrictions. Once documented, the school must offer other choices to that student. Religious reasons are just as valid as health issues or allergies. Make sure that they know you are aware of that.

3. Speak with your child.

Take a look at the menu with your child and make sure they understand what could be hazardous. Encourage them to speak out and ask questions about the content of meals. This is especially true for our young sisters.

4. Send lunch to school with your child.

If there is a doubt that your child might have difficulties selecting the main course without pork, send lunch with them on those days.

From the Teacher's Desk, III

ESL Beyond Spanish

In my work with students from around the globe, I have found that the majority make many of the same errors when trying to decipher English. Some of these errors include: attempting to pronounce every consonant in words, not recognizing the multiple pronunciation of vowels, and not being aware of the correct position of accents in English words. As English speakers, we have grown accustomed to omitting sound and even whole syllables in words. These errors can be a baffling experience for those new to the English language. These errors can cause children to become disheartened and frustrated. Insha'Allah, this won't happen with your child. Fortunately, there are things that you can do to help.

I have been an educator for eight years. I work with bilingual and ESL students. I will provide suggestions to assist our Muslim youth in school. Insha'Allah, my few ideas will help your child excel in reading.

Getting Started

For each student, begin with a list of high frequency words (these can be obtained from your child's teacher). Have a native English speaker listen to your student pronounce each word and list the ones that are difficult. This list of target words can be audio taped for the child to practice with. Ratiocination is a new trend in learning a new language. Many of us practiced saying lists of words as children to memorize them. Now we have learned that saying these words "to a beat" helps children as well. A quick example pattern would be:

DOG DOG CAR
DOG DOG CAT
DOG DOG CAR
CAT CAT CAT

A quick drill at home or in the car for five minutes daily is far more beneficial than a 30 minute block on the weekend.

Gesturing

Gesturing can be an important aid. Allowing children to make gestures when saying words helps them to build meaning and can make learning fun. For example, hands together motioning from side to side can help a child remember the word "fish." Also, there are many cognates between Spanish and English, words that sound the same and have similar meanings i.e. interesante, estudiante, pluma etc.

Using a mirror can help when there are sounds in English that are not in a child's native language. The "th" sound is lacking in many languages. I had a Turkish student who would change "thinking" into "tinking." Have your child watch a native English speaker speak saying the sound or word repeatedly. Then have your child say the word in front of a mirror to watch for tongue placement.

Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension is difficult for children of all ages. Reading comprehension is essentially the ability to understand effectively what you are reading. It is no longer sufficient to simply tell basic facts of a story. Children are now required to manipulate what they have read, draw conclusions and inferences as early as the 3rd grade. You can help your children by having them bring home their reading book daily. Read the story assigned with them and then ask questions about the story.

1. What is the main idea of the story? (Who are the most important characters? What did they do? Where did this happen?)
2. What are some details supporting the main idea you found?
3. What was the "problem" in the story?
4. How was it solved?
5. Was this fantasy or reality?
6. How do you know?
7. Tell me emotions of the characters at various points in the story.
8. Create a new ending.

Your child's teacher should have a test or activity to test for comprehension. Ask for copies of past evaluations to find exactly what types of questions they are expected to answer.

Online

I recently found a few websites that may be of assistance. They are:

http://a4esl.org
http://www.e-mesh.com
http://www.lingolex.com/userpages/Ernie.html

Remember, a teacher's best friend is an involved parent. Contact your children's teachers to become a part of the learning process. Also, work with your children at home. Insha'Allah, your child will benefit from just a few moments of your time.

The NOI is not al-Qaeda ...

By Juan Alvarado

As per Laurie Kellman of the Associated Press ["Muslims fear sniper backlash," 10-24-02], John Allen Muhammad belongs to that idiosyncratic religious group of African-Americans known as the 'Nation of Islam' or the NOI for short. He provided his services to Louis Farakhan's Million Man March as security back in the mid-nineties. This means that despite his name, John Allen Muhammad is neither Sunnite, Shia, Wahhabi or Salafi. Because of his affiliation with the NOI, Mr. Muhammad holds onto some pretty peculiar beliefs which may explain the phrase 'I am god' on the tarot card left on the murderous scene some time ago -- something that would have been unheard of from an Orthodox Muslim.

Some of the differences between the NOI and Orthodox Islam are as follows:
1. The NOI holds onto a strange trinity by stating that Wallace Fard Muhammad, the person who taught Elijah Muhammad, is God in the flesh as well as the returned Christ and the Mahdi. Orthodox Islamic belief holds that God is not human; that Christ will return in the end times (but hasn't yet) and that the Mahdi or the Guide, a separate entity, will herald the coming of the Messiah and fight the anti-Christ.

2. The NOI holds that "the Blackman is god" and is somehow superior to all other men and/or people. Orthodox Islam holds that the True God is the Creator of everything else, of black men or otherwise and is not human. Furthermore, the prophet of Islam stated that all people descended from Adam and Eve and that the noblest among us all are those who are most pious.

3. The NOI holds that Elijah Muhammad, formerly known as Elijah Poole, is the prophet and messenger of God, who in their thought is W.F. Muhammad. Orthodox Islam refutes this saying that Mustafa Muhammad al-Amin, the prophet of Islam of over 1,400 years ago was the final prophet sent to humanity. He is called the Khatim or the Seal of prophethood.

4. The NOI holds that an evil scientist named Yakub created the other races but most importantly the white race which they consider to be devils incarnate. Orthodox Islam holds that all people are redeemable in God's eyes. As such, there are millions of Muslims of European descent, namely the Bosnians, Turks, Kosovars, Albanians, Bulgarians, Chechens, etc. The NOI bars membership to whites.

Although these are some of the more major issues that divides the Nation of Islam from Orthodox Islam, there are many more differences between the two religions. For the past few years, however, Louis Farakhan has been trying to accommodate his NOI to Orthodox Islamic teachings. It remains to be seen whether much of the above has been abandoned. These beliefs can be verified in their own publications, namely "Message to the Blackman" by Elijah Muhammad.

Reflections on my Shahada

By Juan Galvan

Written June 26, 2001

About two weeks ago after Jumaah prayer, Golam encouraged me to say shahada, the Islam declaration of faith. I told him that I wanted to wait until I knew the Muslim prayer. I had already been learning the prayer. I had already memorized a couple of chapters. I told him that Catholics usually have to study before receiving a sacrament. I had been attending Jumaah prayer for about a month already. He said to me, "If you feel it in your heart already, you should just take shahada. No pressure. Allah says no compulsion of religion. But you never know when you will die. By saying shahada, you will be a Muslim in the face of God. But you should think about it, and if you know you're ready you should go for it."

I thought for a second or two what my friends and family would think. I also wondered if I was ready to be a good Muslim. Golam grew up in Bangledesh, a country that is primarily Muslim. I don't think he's experienced the various temptations that are condemned in Islam. I guess the idea of never drinking again was a scary thought. Then I took a deep breath and told Golam that I would go ahead and say shahada. Then he told me that later that night after Maghrib, I would make shahada. He told me what to expect, "You'll say shahada first in Arabic and then in English. Afterward, the brothers will congratulate you." Then he told me what I would say next. I kept butchering the Arabic so I asked him to write it down on paper. In English I would say "I testify that there is nothing worthy of worship but Allah. I also testify that Muhammed is His servant and messenger." Before I left the mosque, Golam instructed me to take a shower before going to the mosque.

While leaving the mosque, I told my Imam and Mamun that I was taking shahada. The Imam instructed me, "You don't have to make the shahada public public. You could say it in front of one person and the person doesn't need to be a Muslim." I suppose I'm used to the Catholic way of things, formal. An informal shahada would be like going to a bus stop and saying "Hi, I'd like to say shahada. I testify that…" As I left jumah prayer, I read the shahada over and over trying to get the words and pronunciation right. "Ash-hadu Al-la Ilaha Il-lal-Lahu Wa-ash-hadu Anna Muhammadan 'Abduhu Wara sulah." I wanted to memorize it so I wouldn't come across as too ignorant. When I would attend mosque on Fridays, I would pray with the congregation. I had asked the Imam if it would be acceptable. I had already memorized Surah 1, Al Fatihah, which begins the prayer and had remembered it in English and Arabic already so I didn't feel too lost. I also memorized Surah 112, Al Ikhlas: "Say: He is God, the One and Only; God, the Eternal, Absolute; He begets not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him."

The reasoning of man can lead people to do the dumbest things. When I arrived at home, I reasoned that "after tonight I will never eat pork again, and I also have a pepperoni pizza in the freezer so I'll either need to throw it away or…" Ok, so I ate a pork-filled pizza before shahada. At least, I didn't wash it down with some beer. Finally 7:00pm rolled around. Golam knocked on my door, and I went to his car. He asked me how I felt. I said I felt good. I felt guilty for eating the pizza. He then asked me if I had taken a shower. I replied in the affirmative. I told him I couldn't believe I was about to be a Muslim.

When we arrived, someone was serving dinner. After being served, Golam and I sat with the other men. The food was delicious as always. Golam stated that in Islam when someone has a child the family will feed the community as a thank you. My friend Mamun ate with his hands. I used a fork. I couldn't decide if it was for religious reasons, if he merely wanted to eat with his hands, or if he was too embarrassed to ask for a fork. I tried handing him a fork. He said that there's a haddith about eating with your hands. Mamun is also from Bangledesh. He has a big heart. Before visiting a mosque, I thought all mosques were packed with Arabs but most people who attend Austin mosques are mostly from Pakistani and Bangladeshi descent. I once asked an Asian brother how long he's been a Muslim. He's from Malaysia. Azlan said his parents and grandparents were all Muslim. I was stunned.

Before magrib prayer, I told Golam, "There's lot of peace. Lots of peace in knowing that I only have to worship God. I don't worship money, wealth, or any of that. I don't have to please the world." Golam nodded. Recently, he stated, "Look at America. They have all the freedoms. Still there are so many unhappy people. You would think everyone would be happy." I have spent most of my life trying to be accepted. I simply believed Islam was true. I wanted to be a Muslim. That was all that mattered. Would I be a good Muslim? Maybe. Maybe not. "Muslims are the most religious people in the world. How can I ever be like that?" I wondered. Hayya Alal Falah, Hayya Alal Falah. Come to success, come to success. Finally, prayer time had come. Congregational prayer is amazing when you think about it. Every Muslim regardless of race or nationality in the world pray toward one location, Mecca in Saudia Arabia. Together, we all form concentric circles around the Kaaba. Beautiful. Amazing. After prayer, it was time to say shahada.

Golam stood up, faced the crowd saying, "There's someone who will take shahada. He attends the University of Texas. He grew up in Texas. He's been coming to the mosque regularly." Next thing I knew I was sitting in front of everyone. I was about to go through a "Muslim baptism" as a Christian friend once put it. The Imam said, "Look what Allah has done. He has touched the heart of another. Brother, what is your name?" "Juan Galvan," I responded. I was handed a microphone. He told me to repeat what he said. The Arabic I said wasn't exactly as I had practiced. I had the paper I used to practice in front of me. I wish I could remember exactly what was said. "I testify that there is no God but Allah. I also testify that Muhammed is his servant and prophet." Then he stated, "I also testify that Jesus is his servant and prophet. God has no brother and no mother." I recalled how adamant Muhammed was about never being worshipped as a God. Stating that Jesus was also God's prophet reminded me about the significance of Jesus within Islam.

After saying shahada, the Imam stated, "Congratulations. God forgives the sins of those who turn toward him. And if he wants he can turn your previous bad deeds into good deeds." Everyone clapped then stood up to shake my hand or hug me. I felt very much at home. I tried hard not to cry. I wish there was a way I could tell all the Muslims I've ever met that I've embraced Islam. I would want them to know how much I appreciate them for telling me about Islam. Meeting all those Muslims were a part of a series of events that brought me to where I am today. Alhamdulila. All praise and thanks to Allah.

Islamic Contributions to Medicine

By Haneme Idrizi

"…Whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind." - Qur'an 5:32.

Within a century after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), the Muslims not only expanded their empire beyond Arabia but also led the way in scientific innovations that would forever influence the practice of medicine. By the ninth century, Islamic medical practice had advanced from talisman and magicry to hospitals with wards, licensed doctors, and pharmacies. While major European cities were places of mud and pestilence, Baghdad and Cairo had remarkably advanced hospitals open to all regardless of sex, economic status, or religious affiliation. Unjustifiably, this vital period in the history of medicine is commonly diminished or overlooked and many remain ignorant to all of the Islamic contributions in the fields of pharmacy, microbiology, medical education, and hospital administration.

The development of Islamic concepts and practices of health are inextricably interwoven into the general body of the religion (Islamic Medicine, 6). The first revelation received by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in 610 A.D. established knowledge as a central focus in Islam, 'Read in the name of thy Lord who created human beings from clots of blood. Read! Your Lord is the most bounteous who has taught the use of the pen. He has taught human beings what he did not know' (Qur'an 16:58-59). With this revelation, the ignorance-based society of ancient Arabia that was plagued by female-child infanticide, alcoholism, and unsanitary health practices was replaced by a remarkably modern society that valued the importance of education (Islamic Medicine, 7).

The Qur'an gave to these people general guidelines and rules concerning nutrition, cleanliness, marital relations, and child rearing-topics that were all new to them (Islamic Medicine, 8-9). The Messenger (pbuh) stressed the importance of sound health amongst his followers and gave specific instructions on various aspects of healthcare such as therapeutics and proper treatment of the sick. In a large part due to the teachings of the Prophet (pbuh), the science and profession of pharmacy developed to an outstanding degree in the Arabia (Contributions to Islam to Medicine, 45). As Ezzat Abouleish states in his Contribution of Islam to Medicine, "The Arabic materia medica became so rich and new drugs and compounds were introduced because the Muslims had contact with almost all the known world at the time… Chemistry became an advanced science, and there were means and a need for specializations such as pharmacy" (Contribution of Islam to Medicine, 47).

Muslim doctors were far more advanced compared to their European counterparts, and they had a systematic approach to treatment. The patient was first treated with physiotherapy and diet and only after these failed were drugs utilized. They were well aware of the interactions between drugs and were cautious to use simple drugs first. Their vast and detailed pharmacological knowledge was a result of the rigorous licensing tests all physicians were required to undergo, unlike any other physicians in the world during this time (Islamic Medicine: 1000 years ahead of its time, 1).

As Islam began to spread, its followers began to develop a tradition of health and well-being that continues to be practiced in the Islamic world today. One tradition that is still heavily emphasized in Islamic life is cleanliness and personal hygiene. Islam instructs all Muslims to approach Allah (swt) in prayer five times a day with bodies and clothes spotlessly clean. Sick or healthy, it is an Islamic obligation to perform some form of prayer even if one must do so mentally while lying down in bed. As a result of this religious requirement, hospitals in Muslim societies had to provide patients and employees with a plentiful water supply and bathing facilities. This emphasis on constant cleanliness established a more sanitary hospital environment that one could find in Western Europe. In addition, famous Muslim physicians such as Al-Razi and Ibn Sina heavily stressed the importance of cleanliness. Legend has it that when Al-Razi was asked to choose a site for a new hospital in Baghdad, he first deduced which was the most hygienic area by observing where the fresh pieces of meat he had hung in various parts of the city and where they had decomposed least quickly (Islamic Medicine: 1000 Years Ahead of its Time, 5).

During the Umayyad rule that lasted from 661-750 AD, the translation of ancient medical works began and the sharing of medical knowledge gained even more importance. Specifically, the Muslim-controlled areas of Cordoba and Granada in Spain became centers of learning. The emphasis on knowledge and religious tolerance found in Islamic Spain provided a perfect location for the advancement of medicine. It was during this golden era of medicine in Spain that the practice of surgery began to flourish.

Abu-Al-asim Al-Zahrawi of Cordoba, best known to the world as Abulcasis, is one of the most celebrated of Muslim surgeons. He wrote mainly four books in his lifetime. One of them, "Al-Tastif Liman Ajiz'an Al'Talif" is described by many medical scholars today as one of the best medieval surgical encyclopedias. In fact, the book was used in Europe until the 17th century. He was one of the first physicians to stress the importance of the basic sciences, a sentiment echoed in the halls of all modern day medical schools. Al-Zahrawi wrote, "Before practicing, one should be familiar with the science of anatomy and the function of the organs so that he will understand them, recognize their shape, understand their connections, and know their borders."

Among the many things Al-Zahrawi is credited for include being the first to describe the ligature of arteries, using cautery and wax to control bleeding, and developing the lithotomic position for vaginal operations. During the time of Al-Zahrawi, surgery in the Islamic world became a respected specialty practiced by reputable physicians (Medieval Islamic Medicine, 45).

The Abbasid period, which immediately followed the Umayyad period, saw major developments in the practice of medicine. The most significant event was the founding of the Baghdad Hospital in 186 AD on the banks of the River Tigris. The Baghdad Hospital, a major metropolitan hospital and the center of the Baghdad School of Medicine was founded in one of the oldest suburbs of the city known as Karkh (Islamic Medicine, 15). All the great physicians and surgeons of the day lectured and practiced at the Baghdad Hospital.

The most famous physician who practiced there was the celebrated clinician and master of Arabic medicine, Al-Razi. Al-Razi was born Abu-Bakr Muhammed Ibn-Zakaria Al-Razi in a suburb of Tehran in 841 AD. He became the chief physician of the Bimartistan Hospital and the court physician of the Caliph. Al-Razi is known for the several books he published that were translated into Latin, French, Italian, Hebrew, and Greek (Contribution of Islam to Medicine, 10). One of his most famous books, Al-Mansuri, is composed of ten treatises that dealt with all aspects of health and disease. He defined medicine as the "art concerned in preserving healthy bodies, in combating disease, and in restoring health to the sick." He thus is credited with being one of the first physicians to address the areas of public health, preventative medicine, and the treatment of disease.

The significant contributions Islam made in the advancement of medicine simply cannot be ignored. Muslim physicians are not only responsible for preserving the works of past physicians such as Galen and Hippocrates, but they also added to earlier achievements of medicine. All of these contributions helped shape the medicine that is practiced today.

References: Abouleish, Ezzat, "Contributions of Islam to Medicine" islam-usa.com.

Ibrahim, B. Syed, "Islamic Medicine: 1000 years ahead of its time.
http://www.islam-usa.com/im.html

Khan, Muhammad Salim. Islamic Medicine. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986.

Ridwan, Ali ibn. Medieval Islamic Medicine. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984.

Have Courage - Deliver the Message!

By Brenda Ortiz

Ok, guys! I've been sitting here wallowing in my own self-pity all morning. What if my husband thinks I'm brainwashed because I accepted Islam? So what if my father-in-law finds it hysterical that I actually leave on my hijab after I leave the mosque? He practically pulled my mother-in-law out of the toilet to come and get a look at me. Anyway..I don't care. I am Muslim! Maybe not perfect, but I am. I'm still struggling with how to tell my mom that I'm Muslim. As is typical in American culture, she has many misconceptions. If I tell her today that I'm Muslim, tomorrow she'll expect me to pull up at home wearing a burqua with Bahman's other wife in the back seat.

As I read the Koran, I see many passages about how the Prophet and his companions delivered the beautiful message of Islam. Yet, I couldn't help but wonder why it was so difficult for me to find Islam in my own community. Somebody had to reach out to me and bring me in! Thank you, Ehab! Whether we are born into Islam or fall into it like a clumsy belly-flopper at the World Diving Championships, it is each of our responsibility to turn around and deliver that message to somebody else.

I encourage each of you to visit the website of the Muslim Public Affairs Council at www.mpac.org. Did you know that Congress has frozen the assets of three American Muslim charities and plans to use about $8 million of zakat funds for victims of terrorism, lawyers, and special interests? If you don't know, you should. And if you're an American citizen, you should write your congressman. MPAC has a direct link on its website that uses your address/zip code to find the e-mail address of your senator or representative.

Better yet, become a member of MPAC by printing out an application found on their website. On the application, you are asked to select activities of interest for participating as a member of MPAC. They include:

. Writing to local newspapers.
. Contacting elected officials locally and nationally.
. Arranging and promoting MPAC community events.
. Conducting vote education and registration forums and drives.
. Coordinating the display of MPAC's gallery.
. Promoting and participating in interfaith dialogues.
. Attending the MPAC annual convention.
. Assisting in the hate crime unit and victim assistant program.
. Serving as MPAC's liason for the local community.
. Assisting in fundraising.

Whatever you do, no matter how small or insignificant, we have to deliver the message. America's view of Islam will not change until Americans are educated about Islam. I am sending in my application today. I hope that someday I can look back on my life and see not just one, but a handful of people that I have helped. Thank you for listening to the ravings of a crazy, brainwashed Muslimah! I happened to have many challenges this past weekend from some people who are not very comfortable with my being Muslim. When that happens I just go back to what makes me feel good. That is Allah and seeking as much information about other Muslims in America. Hence, my venture into the MPAC website. May you receive Allah's wonderful blessings and gain strength and determination this Ramadan.

When Muslims Must Handle Tragedies

By Edmund A. Arroyo

Asalamu Alaykum brothers and sisters,

Muslims must be cautious about how they deal with situations such as the DC sniper tragedy. First, I want to warn against attacks on the Nation of Islam by Muslims. It is acceptable to clarify our differences. However, we should caution against insults and mockery, even if it is in jest. I would like to believe that we are better than those who do the same to us.

Secondly, I want to caution all of my convert brothers and sisters about blame. All too often, we buy into these conspiracy theories on the Internet. We buy into rhetoric and platitudes that we hear in some conversation with other Muslims. As a result, we begin to deny and blame anyone and anything that is not Muslim. All this does is further isolate us and portray us as hypocrites. We invite to "the truth", but try to deny it whenever it makes us look bad. In the case of these two sniper suspects, well, I do not doubt that he calls himself Muslim.

However, just as Christians do not have to defend themselves for every criminal that once claimed their religion, I don't feel a need or duty to defend Islam because of some crazy sniper with the name Muhammad. We make ourselves look guilty when we feel the need to place the blame on someone else or when we deny the facts. This kind of behavior is exactly what breeds snipers and suicide bombers. The truth is that the Internet is not much better than the tabloids when it comes to reliability.

The truth is that we can best define Islam through our actions. Let us not define Islam by what we are not. All that does is continue to make us more foreign. If we continue to blame, we place ourselves as victims…and victims are helpless. We empower ourselves by embodying Islam in all that we do and say. Then people will know that a suicide bomber, a sniper, or any other killer, is just that, regardless of his religion.

Brothers and sisters, we need a different approach. When Islam spread quickly, it was because people saw the early Muslims and thought, "we want what they have, whatever it is." NonMuslims saw the light in people's faces and their good character. We have the best of examples in our Prophet pbuh, and he pbuh was a man of truth. I pray that we can all follow his example. Asalamu Alaykum wa rhama tullah.

Ramadan in Mexico

By Mudar Abdulghani
IOL Mexico Correspondent

http://www.islam-online.net/english/news/2002-11/24/article51.shtml

MEXICO CITY, November 23 (IslamOnline) - Muslims in Mexico started observing the holy month of Ramadan on November 6.

Some Muslims determined the date based on information received from Islamic countries, while others used information received from adjacent countries, mainly the USA.

The moon sighting information from abroad concurred with information received from the Observatory of the UNAM (the Autonomous University of Mexico.)

As normal, the Taraweeh prayer started immediately on the night before Ramadan, and was well-attended by members of the small Muslim community of Mexico City.

The Islamic Center has planned and implemented a beneficial educational and worship program for the Muslims.

Regular classes of Quran are given before the Maghrib prayer.

After the Iftar (break of the fast), there is another interesting class about the life of the Prophet, peace be upon him.

The fasting starts approximately at 5:30 AM, and continues until about 6 PM.

Since this is a non-Muslim country, Muslims have to keep their regular schedule of work or study, which is from about 9 AM to 5 PM.

Despite this long duration, very few are complaining from fatigue.

The climate in Mexico city is moderately cold nowadays, and this makes the fast more convenient.

The collective Iftar is a good occasion for gathering the Muslims of various nationalities: Arab, Pakistani, as well as an increasing number of Mexican Muslims.

The warm display of brotherhood could account for several new converts (five in the first 10 days of Ramadan,) who have been impressed by the world of Islam and the genuine feelings of brotherhood among Muslims from different races.

Some non-Muslims have been invited to the collective iftar, and it was a good chance to experience the warmth of the Muslim community, and the brotherly atmosphere that’s ready to welcome any stranger in a friendly manner.

The number of those attending the collective Iftar and taraweeh varies between 20-50 everyday, which shows how small the Muslim community in the city is.

Many Muslims find it hard to join these collective activities, due to the fact that they live very far.

With Mexico City being one of the largest in the world, some Muslims have to travel for one or two hours in order to reach the Islamic Center.

A number of Muslims explained that this Ramadan has a better feeling than last year, with more attendance at the Center, and more organized activities that give the Muslims a chance for education as well as worship.

Some new converts expressed excitement at joining such a busy program, and enjoying Ramadan with their newfound brothers and sisters.

One Year Later: Petition Against Christina Episode

Assalaam alaiykum,
Last December, Latina Muslim sisters began an online petition against an anti-Muslim Christina episode. Many Latino Muslims were deeply offended by the Christina episode. Learn more about the Christina episode in LADO's January 2002 online LADO newsletter:
http://www.latinodawah.org/newsletter/jan2k2newletter.html#6

The online petition currently shows 652 signatures. You are strongly encouraged to sign the petition. Below, you will find the original petition followed by some comments written by people who signed the petition.

You can sign the online petition by visiting:
http://www.petitiononline.com/Muslimah/petition.html

~~~The Letter by Latina Muslimahs:

To: Spanish Media
PETITION ON LINE

Petition to protest the defamation by the Spanish Communication media against Muslim Women and Islam.

We the Hispanic Muslim women of the USA are rightfully indignated at the negative views presented on Islam and Muslim woman, broadcast on Spanish Radio and Television. As an example let us draw attention to the airing on December 17, 2002 of "El show de Cristina" on Univision with "Behind the Veil" . This program used people who had bad experiences with "Muslims" and in a "Muslim" country where things did not go well.

It is unjustifiable to judge a religion and its congregates using a so called Religion Expert as Khalid Duran. This man is an Islamaphobic due to his passionate aversion to Islam. His goal is widespread defamation of Islam.

This show was not a fair representation of our Beliefs or allowed for a rebuttal. Unfortunately, Television ratings WERE the priority. No one took into account that there are over 7 million Muslims in America and among them several thousand Latino Muslims who merely want to live in peace and harmony. It is unjust to generalize a minority group, another word for this type of stereotyping is called "Discrimination" . This only creates resentment among TV viewers and an atmosphere of hostility against Muslims in general.

Your programming is always suggesting that the Mid East mistreats women. Don't you realize that you are also mistreating and slandering our dignity. We demand respect towards our Religion and Muslim women. Therefore we request airtime to expose the misinformation that is being broadcast. Or rebuttal time to answer the allegations.


~~~Some signatures along with comments:

Nidal Diaz - "Viva Islam!!"

Tiffany Garcia - "Unidos Latinos Musulman!"

Lee Ali - "Hysteria against Muslims sells. That's why they do it."

valentina Eden - "my god protect all muslims around the word from every evil"

Amir Habib bhatti - "No other religion or a culture has the elevated status of women as islam does!"

Antonio Silva - "Let`s give peace a chance"

Sherrel A. Johnson - "BRAVO!!! Excellent points! Like cream, the truth will rise to the top."

A. Hammad - "Ever wonder why nuns cover their heads, and no one question it!"

Jacqueline Welden - "Alhamdulilah for Islam! Subhanallah !"

valentina Eden - "my god protect all muslims around the word from every evil"

Vilma Avila - "Please end racism"

Mansoor - "Islam is a religion of peace and tolerant to every other religions."

Noushad - "Why people are islamophobic? Spend some time to learn the facts."

Juan Alvarado - "The 'Cristina' show is nothing more than the Hispanic version of Jerry Springer which is why I never bother to see it. It is a shame, though, that this show would bend to this level all for ratings. It is not surprising at all though."

Rafael Miranda - "it's quite sad to see christina do something akin to this- and it deserves, at the absolute least, an apology"

Maria Victoria De Bernard - "Pobre Cristina ella es totalmente una mediocre,que ni en su tierra puede vivir porque de alli sacamos a todos los que como ella son."

Mohammed Chavez - "I saw the show. It did not show the truth. It was one sided. By the way, I found some one the things said hard to believe, and others that totally wrong. I think the only thing Cristina wants are ratings, even if she has to step over her dignity."

Beatrice Layla Durrani (formerly, Martinez) - "Ms. Cristina, you would do right by your profession as a journalist to allow Hispanic Muslims equal time on your program."

Rajab Alkhazmi - "Enlightenment and light are there, but the blind can not see them. Some are determined to remain ignorant!"

Amatullah - "The Muslim Women are the BEST examples of who a WOMAN really is and how she should be treated by others. Those who won't understand will never Believe."

AbuMaya Gomez - "No otro digno de adoración más que Dios y Muhammad es el último Profeta de Dios"

Mahmood Al-Sabbagh - "We call ourselves the civilized world, let those who call themselves civil apply the term in its full content"

Nisrine Cabani - "Islam is a religion of peace, love, and justice for all. But most are too ignorant to educate themselves about the truth. They will always be the losers. May Allah, the Almighty, unveil their hearts so that they may finally see the light."

Lisa Regalado - "Its unfortunate that the spanish media is jumping on the bandwagon of misconceptions about Islam. God willing, we can educate these people from all over the world including the spanish, and show them what Islam is truly about, not what the western media is portraying."

M. Ziny - "Before you slander us, please read about Islam from the source not from a tainted media like yourselves. No only are you defaming Muslims, some of which are hispanic, you are also lying to your viewers; where is your integrity? Who is paying you to do this?"

Mariam Alvi - "Sad... Very sad.... Its the Muslims who've brought culture and civilization to Spain...Nice way of saying thanks... A little bit of tolerance would do, u know.... May Allah guide us all... Ameen."

Juan Suquillo. Imam of the Islamic Center of Ecuador - "I am a spanish speaking muslim. I got to know (the first week of December 2001- through a muslim brother in New Jersey), that the famous show de Cristina, was requiring a Spanish speaking Muslim. Next day the show's secretary call me and addressed me the question how did I became muslim and how long?. After hearing the nice story how Islam gave me the statu of a true human beeing, and not only that, but that I studied in the Islamic University in Madinah, Saudi Arabia, and further more that my wife and myself founded the first Islamic Center in Ecuador. The lady said they will call me back if they will consider my case to be exposed. She never called me back, but she gaved me her telephones. The next week I saw the show, I just realized why I was not invited?. The whole show was purposely built up to discredit Islam. We are ready anytime to go convey the bases of Islam (in Spanish) in public. Juan"

Sakinah Gutierrez (Colombia) - "Asalamu Alaikum - if only they knew what this phrase meant and realize that we empliment it 24-7, then just maybe they would think twice. Allah (swt) knows best and may He (swt) reward everyone for their efforts Insha-Allah, Ameen. Lets not forget that we know Islam will always be the most misunderstood religion but only because the truth is scarey to the average person and if they don't understand it they will hate it. Let us ask Allah (swt) the give us patience and try our best to give dawah. After all they are our people."

Imy - "Islam showed Spain, as well as the rest of the world, the essence of peaceful co-existence. You know that even the Muslims' worst enemies, the Jews, enjoyed civil liberties and freedom of all kinds during the glorious age of Islaam in Spain. Many jewish people were given high posts under Islamic Moorish Spain. The golden age for Islaam was also the golden age for the jews."

Martin Brigitte - "I'm a European Muslim woman practising my relgion, and I'm proud to be Muslim. I'm ready to answer to any questions you may have , to make you understand what the REAL Islam is. Islam gives more rights to the women than any other religion."

Abdul Haadi Umar Boyd - "I agree 100% with this petition and I am deeply offended and hurt that my some of my Latino brothers and sisters who not Muslim would slander,attack & denigrate those of us who are Muslims.To portray Muslims as backwards and oppressive without anyone to rebut this obivious misrepresention is down right dirty and WRONG!!!!! May Allah send peace & blessings on all those who support this petiton and may Allah send the light of understanding and remorse upon those to who this petition is directed to. Ameen"

Veronica Barazi - "Considering how many women in this country are abused at the hands of a man, they are worried about women who have to cover their bodies. They do not worry about the fact that women in this country are paid less than men for the same work. The Spanish media, especially - most shows (besides novelas) are targeted toward men (hence the women walking around with hardly any clothes). Why is it a nun covered? People obviously see her as special and thus respect her for covering up. All muslimahs want is that same treatment - respect."

Mashukur Rahman - "Islam is the religion to attain peace which is practised by over a billion people of this earth. There are about 7 million muslims in USA who are hard working and peace loving people like anybody else. There can be some bad apples as it is true with any other religious groups. If you read the Islamic scripture carefully you would notice Islam liberated women from the shackles of men and gave women their right in the society. If someone had bad experience in marriage you can not blame Islam for that. The blame goes to the person/s and the tradiotion he/she is in not Islamic tradition. In America about 50% of the marriages end up in divorce and many children are born from unwed couples, for that we can not blame chritianity or their religion. I protest in the strongest term the defamation of islam and muslim women."

Diana Mercado - "Islam no es violencia ni odio. Islam es amor, es paz. Ojala que el morbo y la desesperada busqueda de raitings no siga destruyendo la imagen del verddero Islam. Por que en ves d dar al publico esa imagen escandalos, y tan vendible, de mujees humilladas, fanaticos erroristas, y todo eso que nos han quedido enseñar, ´por que no mejor dedican uno de sus programas a mostrar la imagen verdadera, Y UNICA, del Islam. en America exisen miles de fieles que estarian dispuestos a acudir a su programa para hablarles mas del Islam. Que Allah este con ustedes y habra sus corazones."

Saajidah Mahmood - "I am an African American Muslim woman that LOVES Islam! I converted about 8yrs ago, and I am proud that Allah god, led me to this way of life! I use to live the filthy lives of our non muslim counterparts, but I thank God everyday I was brought away from the filth of this world! I wear a face veil, and I completley cover my body, and I have never been to the middle east! As a matter of fact I have never been out of this country, the U.S! Spanish wake up! Except Islam, your culture and American Culture only exploits you like a piece of meat that you are not! ISLAM will save you from this!"

Elmurad Kandimov - "Nowadays, media has become a window to millions of people to see and know the world. Let us not distort the reality having wrong misrepresentations of sensitive issues such as religious beliefs. Media should stay objective and try to look at any issue from both sides to make it a fair representation and leave the conclusion upto the people's consciousness. Journalists give their oath to show the truth, so let's stay loyal to your promises. Let the truth be known, whether it's bad or good. After all, truth prevails."

Moon Goldberg - "To the media organizers: To produce a successful talk show or a debate if you will, you need to be fair to the viewers by inviting two sides. I am not a Muslim and I will never rate a TV show like that. Do you know statistics on Spanish man who beats and abuses women? Are they Muslims? Or should we say Spanish countries or Christians are bad. It is only fair if you invited one that had a bad experience and one that has a normal life and a Muslim scholar "a pacifist" than I will be honored to watch and support your show. Since then I have never watch the Spanish channels again."

The Mexican Wife

The sick husband was laying on his death bed. He had only hours to live, when he suddenly smelled tamales. He loved tamales more than anything else in the world (shirk-alert), especially his wife Chepa's tamales which were known through out the land of Mexico as "Lo mejor de lo mejor." The best of the best.

With his last bit of energy and breath, the sick, weak husband pulled himself out of bed, across the floor, down the stairs, and into the kitchen. Here, his wife was spreading the masa for a new batch of tamales.

As the sick, weak husband reached for one of the freshly steamed tamales, he got SMACKED and hit across the back of his hand by the wooden spoon that his wife was holding. "Leave them alone, pendejo!" she said, "They're for the funeral!"

The morale of the story is that you should not commit shirk by worshipping tamales. When you die, you cannot take tamales with you. Fortunately, Paradise is better than the Dunya.

Maybe, Paradise will have tamales trees. Paradise will have things no eye has ever seen.

Qur'an 18:31 - "For them will be Gardens of Eternity; beneath them rivers will flow; they will be adorned therein with bracelets of gold and they will wear green garments of fine silk and heavy brocade; they will recline therein on raised thrones. How good the recompense! How beautiful a couch to recline on!"

Qur'an 9:72 - "Allah hath promised to believers men and women gardens under which rivers flow to dwell therein and beautiful mansions in gardens of everlasting bliss. But the greatest bliss in the Good Pleasure of Allah: that is the supreme felicity."

Qur'an 47:15 - "(Here is) a Parable of the Garden which the righteous are promised: in it are rivers of water incorruptible: rivers of milk of which the taste never changes; rivers of wine a joy to those who drink; and rivers of honey pure and clear. In it there are for them all kinds of fruits and Grace from their Lord. (Can those in such Bliss) be compared to such as shall dwell forever in the Fire and be given to drink boiling water so that it cuts up their bowels (to pieces)?"

Shahada
 

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